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I Hate Being Cold But Tried Cryotherapy Anyway. The Unexpected Results Got Me Hooked

Sarah Koenig
December 5, 2017
Sarah Koenig
Written by
Photo by @cryofuel
December 5, 2017

Like many of us who are willing to try trendy wellness treatments, I’m a results-driven person. I'm game to try anything to achieve a certain outcome. I’ve tried several different workout programs to look and feel better—butt workouts, Kayla Itsines, intermittent fasting, giving up coffee—you name it, I’ve probably tried it. So when I first heard of cryotherapy, the buzzy treatment wellness influencers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts can't get enough of, I was equal parts intrigued and terrified. Intrigued because I've heard it works to heal sore muscles1 and boost energy levels but scared because it involves standing in a very cold chamber—250°Farenheit—for three whole minutes in nothing but socks and gloves.

It took me three months to book an appointment because I was finding every logical reason why I didn’t want to voluntarily freeze. My stomach was in knots when I showed up for my first appointment, and I even tried to make an excuse to leave once I’d already gotten there. Spoiler alert: I survived... and even noticed I felt better the next day. I immediately started going three times a week for a month to see if it's the real deal.

What is cryotherapy like?

Yes, you’re fully naked. The chamber is cooled by liquid nitrogen and it produces a fight-or-flight response in the body, which is then followed by a huge rush of endorphins. It’s definitely uncomfortably cold but tolerable. It feels more like the coldest day you’ve ever experienced outside, the kind where you’re swearing under your breath and would rather be curled up in a warm bed. Talk about extreme.

I’d heard a handful of my friends, many of whom are fitness instructors, sing the praises of regular cryotherapy treatments and how beneficial it can be for athletes, but to be perfectly honest, I was skeptical it'd be good for me. I workout regularly and am almost always sore, but how would freezing for three minutes change that?

According to Ben Feinson, a manager at CryoFuel in New York City well-versed in the science behind it, "[cryo is] great for reducing inflammation; it speeds up muscle tissue recovery; if you have any chronic pain it will help reduce the signs of this. It is also great for your immune system and your sleep cycle. An added benefit is you burn calories while you're in there and will feel quite euphoric when you step out," he said. Per his recommendation, I went three times a week for one month to see how it affected my body, my workouts, and my overall well-being. He suggested regular visits so I’d start seeing longer-term benefits rather than immediate muscle relief. Here’s what I noticed:

1. After a session, I was ALWAYS in a good mood.

Photo: @sarahekoenig

Those who know me know I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so when I’m upset, stressed, or unhappy, it’s obvious. But without fail, I left my sessions with a huge smile on my face, already excited about my next session. I later found out this was due to the rush of endorphins2 that my brain was releasing during the three-minute sessions to combat the cold.

2. It reduced cellulite.

I work out five times a week, take classes at SoulCycle, lift weights at the gym, and even foam roll when I’m feeling particularly motivated, but as all women know, cellulite is just a part of the game. I’ve tried coffee scrubs and tightening lotions that promise to reduce cellulite, but nothing has been effective until cryotherapy. While there's little evidence to prove why (according to some studies, it has to do with hydration of fatty tissue2 and how temperature affects it), cryotherapy often reduces the appearance of cellulite with regular appointments. WIN.

3. I recovered from my workouts faster.

Typically I struggle to do intensive workouts on back-to-back days because my body is fatigued, but I found that I was able to get through consecutive days at the gym with noticeably less difficulty with cryo treatments.

4. My energy levels increased.

I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day and prefer to work out in the morning, but after a cryo session, I felt energized enough to get a workout in later on. I may or may not have used this as an excuse to sleep in a few extra mornings during this experiment.

5. My sleep significantly improved.

I’m usually a troubled sleeper—I wake up multiple times a night, sometimes struggle to fall asleep, and almost always wake up early. However, during my month of cryo, I consistently found I was falling and staying asleep more consistently.

Overall, I loved getting cryo to complement my workout schedule. It was quick, which made it relatively painless and most definitely effective. However, the price tag isn’t cheap at around $50 to $75 a session—and you won't really see significant results unless you go consistently. It's hard to make the time, and the budget, so going forward I’ll probably employ cryo when my body needs a little extra TLC.

Want more wellness trends? Read our wellness editor's hilarious account of naked yoga, or kick back and enjoy our food editor's experience trying CBD oil.

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Sarah Koenig author page.
Sarah Koenig

Sarah is on the social media team at mindbodygreen. She loves SoulCycle, matcha lattes, and baking cookies, and in her free time can be found petting random dogs and searching for walls to backdrop her Instagram photos. Follow her @sarahekoenig for her NYC adventures.